This week we took advantage of a beautiful Wednesday and went to Lory State Park. I have big plans for this season for Highboy competing, and part of making those plans come to fruition includes getting him out and schooling cross country in as many places as possible. I want Highboy to see enough different kinds of new things to jump over that he will be confident in competition jumping over just about anything.
Our day went well, with some of the jumps looking like this first photo:
But some of the landings, particularly while we were starting out and Highboy was full of beans, included his trademarked touchdown party. He may moonlight under the name Twinkletoes.
Bucking and kicking out in celebration is Highboy's favorite part of jumping, and since we got it on video I was able to take some entertaining stills from that.
There were great moments, too, including Highboy figuring out how to get to the base of a jump. This is really important especially when we are jumping cross country. He is big enough and scopey enough that he thinks he can jump obstacles from anywhere and still clear them. He sometimes tries to leave out entire strides in front of a jump, leaping too early and jumping much too big. Because he is athletic and I'm able to ride it, at the lower levels he can get away with it. However, as he progresses to more difficult questions on course that require more precise footwork as well as bigger fences, it's not going to be an option to just leave out strides and count on straight guts and athleticism to carry him over. If he misses a distance resulting in hitting a fence, it becomes a safety concern since the cross country ones don't fall down. So the focus of this ride was to help him see exactly where I wanted him to take off. Part of this is done by steering him exactly to where I want, part of it is having the right canter in place as we approach each fence.
I also did a little work with him cantering between groups of jumps. He would jump a couple in one area, then canter away to another spot where we would jump three or four more. Mostly this went well, though we did have one spot where he stopped hard to take a last look at the jump and we ended up nearly high-centered. That's right, he jumped and landed with his front feet then stopped, having left his hind feet on the first side. Fortunately he's long legged and was able to scramble over after pausing to think through his predicament. Another good reason to have leg protection on him.
Tao was teaching Joan how to do some smaller fences. Tao is quite careful when on the trail or jumping cross country, and is famous for his "slow motion" jump. He's a thinker and needs time to process an obstacle, so sometimes he approaches slowly, then pauses. He sits on his haunches, gradually lifting his front end over the fence, then slowly his hind end follows. I got some cute photos of them from video as well.
Joyce and Khreed did a good job over the smaller fences, too. They are currently working on taking their arena jumping skills out of the arena, to use over jumps in the field. It's hard to remember that "eyes up, heels down, leg on," works just as well outside, as long as you remember to do it!